« Vuelta » en Aragon

“Vuelta” in Aragon

Living in the Pyrenean foothills, the sad days under the spring Béarnaise “monsoon” are sometimes difficult to live with. A solution is then necessary to keep morale high, contrary to the weather: head to Spain.

By Patrick Dufaur

We go up the Aspe valley, to rush into the gaping mouth of the Somport tunnel under the still gray sky of the north slope, and miraculously, as soon as we exit the other side, a storm of blue sky welcomes us into the Upper Aragon valley. A few more kilometers, and already the beeches, ferns and other mosses give way to Mediterranean vegetation and bluish limestone bars. Obviously very quickly reached by the gentle way of life of the country, a stop is necessary at the small bar of Villanua , for a breakfast, “Café con leche y pan tostados”, it is true, that we are a little at altitude, and certainly if the sun is there, often a little cold air makes us wait a little before getting on our mounts.

Already here in Villanua on the slopes of Collorada, the emblematic summit dominating the village, a very rolling track allows us to climb the slopes of the massif, to then be able to dive into single tracks of all levels, some rolling for lovers of “All-mountain”, others more chaotic for endurists. Going down the valley, we come across the small village of Castiello de Jaca , here too the range of traces will satisfy more than one. On the left side in the orographic direction, tracks go up towards the abandoned village of Cénarbe to continue towards the top of the Garcipollera valley and reach the magnificent and imposing Romanesque building of Iguacel lost in the middle of nowhere.

Still on the same side of the valley, a visit will be possible to the abandoned village of Bergosa . It is reached from this side by a beautiful track. For the descent, several options. Either directly on Castiello de Jaca by a path traced and marked by local mountain bikers, or by crossing the ridge above the abandoned village and from the Ipas pass by the magnificent single track: “ El sendero de Claraco ”. It will take us to the international road downstream from Castiello de Jaca, all we have to do is reach the starting point via the Camino de Santiago. On the right side, beautiful loops run through the “Sierra de Los Angeles”, a return to the village of Borau will be possible, we will go up to the Aratores pass to descend by a path to Castiello de Jaca.

Further south, we will reach Jaca. Here too on the slopes of the Peña de Oroel, a multitude of traces will be available to you, but be careful, the sector has recently been classified as a “Protected Area”, and the practice of our activity is very regulated, trails and loops are dedicated to us, signage in place, please respect it, otherwise the bans will be more draconian. The Spanish are eminently kind people, as long as they stay within the “nails”. Small aside, without getting into a “for or against” debate. You will evolve in immense unpopulated expanses, the game is abundant, especially the big ones, as proof, the “ploughing” that the wild boars do by turning the earth on the trails.

Hunting is an institution in Spain, and cohabitation with hunters generally goes very well, with mutual respect, but at the time when this activity is practiced, be careful of hunts, they are always reported and supervised, it Just avoid these areas. “Yes anyway”, it happened to me carelessly!!! As for me, I have a yellow vest in my bag, which I put on to signal myself. Making here a complete list of all the loops around Jaca would be boring, and that is not the purpose of this text. All the necessary documentation can be easily found on the VTOPO Premium .

Before we move away from Jaca to visit the neighboring valley, we need to talk a little about this town, because “It’s not just about cycling”. Jaca was also swept away like her big sisters in the “Movida” of the 80s. But far from giving in to the sirens of mercantile, and the easy “tourist” trap, she knew how to keep her Aragonese identity. There is an unusual sweetness of life in this city. You just have to come there one day at “paseo” time to get an idea of ​​it. The streets full of people walking there, all generations combined.

Sitting at the bar, in front of the large barrels which serve as tables, facing the old cathedral, and enjoying a glass of Somontano with a plate of "jamon de Teruel", or other "tapas", is a pleasure that I wish to all. An energy whose origins we wonder has led to the emergence of real estate complexes on the outskirts, but without abandoning the city center. The economy benefits from healthy tourism, and is "boosted" in winter by frequentation of the ski resorts in the upper Aragon valley. It also benefits from a large military garrison as well as the High Mountain Military School.

The facades of the houses have regained color over the years, and shops have flourished along the sidewalks. As proof of this dynamism, Jaca had submitted her application to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. Unfortunately, she was not selected, I think that despite her modest size, she would have been able to fully fulfill this role of host for this event. .

We will leave this valley to then visit its neighbor and twin, the “Vall de Tena” or Upper Valley of the Rio Gallego, further east. We will particularly reach the small town of Biescas , it has intelligently taken advantage of the teachings of Ainsa and the “Zona-zéro” association. Here too, in fact, the members of a very dynamic association, “Espacio BTT Pirineos Alto Gállego”, were able to open, clean and mark a multitude of routes. Most of the latter, by the nature of the Aragonese terrain, are not to be put under all wheels, although not extreme, the level is still quite demanding.

However, certain loops at the bottom of the valley are more accessible. In the upstream part around Sallent de Gallego you will find mountain-oriented tracks. We will evolve here in a magnificent setting. Uphill trails at the foot of the northern slope of the Sierra de Partacua, one of which will take us to the Pacino pass, a guaranteed panorama of the first 3000 Pyrenees. Now above Biescas, at a lower altitude, a significant range of other loops are available to our wheels.

Car tracks, small paths between stone walls, will allow us to access a multitude of small abandoned villages: Ainielle, Susin, Casba de Jaca, Escuer Alto, and others still populated: Larrede, Olivan, Yesero, etc. etc... The list is not exhaustive! From the high points, we will reach the starting points by single tracks full of surprises, sometimes rolling, on clay or carpets of pine thorns, sometimes more chaotic where the “stone” emerges, but always cleaned for those who have traveled the most . A particularity of this valley, lovers of old stones will be seduced.

We will sometimes encounter ruins of fortifications: watchtower of Larrede, castle of Escuer Alto, and much more often old Romanesque or more precisely Mozarabic churches, this somewhat special art, a survival of the time during which Christian activity rhymed with Muslim occupation . So we won't fail to visit San Bartolomé de Gavin, San Pedro de Larrede, San Juan de Busa... and many others.

Further down we will find the small industrial town of Sabinanigo, here too the mountain bikers of the association have created routes, up to the foot of the Monrepos pass giving access to the Huesca plain. There are easy trails starting from the villages of Caldearenas or Javierrelatre. We will move there on moving tracks. Departing from Yebra de Basa, there too a rolling track will take us up to the church of Santa Orasio, however from this place the descent routes are more demanding to descend to Satué or Isin de Basa, or even reserved for experts to descend by the cornice of the hermitages, a splendid balcony suspended above the void.

Finally, directly to the South, a very beautiful loop will leave the village of Gesera to take us to the village of Ibirque and its beautiful dolmen, a typical enduro descent, but with reasonable difficulties, will bring us back to the starting point, but we will already be here at the limit of the Sierra de Guara. In the same sector, I forgot "La ralla de Rapun", a small easy loop which crosses the village of Iport repopulated by gentle misfits, visit the church, a surprise awaits you there.

Here too, as in the valley above Jaca, we can follow the marked routes, but why not be more adventurous, and by searching the Internet to follow more secret loops, Spanish practitioners have a boundless imagination. In any case this little corner of Aragon invites us to visit it all year round, go there for a day, two days or a week, you will have the impression of having been away for a year, but be careful, it is a not very dangerous, because whatever happens you will surely become “addicted”!

The best MTB routes in Aragon, by Patrick Dufaur, are available via VTOPO Premium , with GPS tracks and detailed descriptions.

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